Art Imitates Life
Art Imitates Life
Season 9
Number 3
Writer Evan Dunsky
Director Kenneth Fink
Original Airdate October 23, 2008
Previous Episode: The Happy Place
Next Episode: Let It Bleed

Art Imitates Life is the third episode in Season Nine of CSI: Crime Scene Investigation.


The team investigates the murder of a woman found in the park posed to recreate life, and a string of murders follows with the same pattern. An artist becomes one of the suspects when they find out he has his models pose as dead bodies for his pictures. Also, being two CSIs short, Ecklie hires a new CSI, Riley Adams, and a counselor comes in to help them deal with Warrick's death.


Victims: Carla Peretti and Harley Soon (both deceased)

On the case: entire team

After a jogger witnesses a homeless man stealing a purse from a woman, he asks another woman for her cell phone, only to discover that she's dead. The victim is standing upright against a lamp post holding a cell phone to her ear. Grissom arrives and curiously stares at the body. He notes to Catherine that lividity is fixed in the ankles, which indicates that she died while standing upright. Catherine mentions that there was dry lightning in the area the night before and that maybe the victim got electrocuted when she touched the post. Grissom says that he'll have Doc Robbins check for electrocution.

Grissom gives the body a closer inspection and doesn't find any evidence of burn marks on her palms. Up in a cherry picker, Catherine sees no signs of a lightning strike on the light's dome; the light is also burned out. A search of the victim's personal effects reveals an empty purse and a brand new cell phone. David Phillips is unable to pinpoint a time of death.

Mandy informs Grissom that the victim's prints are in the system—the health care providers database, to be more precise. The victim is identified as Carla Peretti, a licensed practical nurse at Desert Palm Hospital. Shortly after, Grissom is ushered into the break room, where peer counselor Patricia Alwick addresses the team regarding Warrick's death and the grieving process. New CSI Riley Adams arrives a short while later and Grissom puts her right to work.

Later that night, a body dressed in workout gear is found on a bench at a bus stop. Grissom brings Riley along and tells her that this is her proficiency evaluation. The victim has fixed lividity on his back with the pattern matching the slats of the bench. No forms of identification are found. A bus driver told Det. Williams that the victim was on the bench no longer than 90 minutes; since full rigor takes 12 to 24 hours to set, it seems odd that it set in such a short amount of time. Riley theorizes that the victim was running, suffered a heart attack, and went into spontaneous rigor. A perplexed Grissom mentions that this is the second case of rapid-onset rigor in the last 24 hours.

There was no sign of forced entry or disturbances in Carla's apartment, and she was last seen leaving the hospital at the end of her shift. Her cause of death is labeled as cardiac arrest. Catherine and Nick look over the autopsy photos and find no indications of electrocution. Nick wonders if her muscles seized up because she was epileptic, but there were no epilepsy drugs in her system, nor did she have a medical history of epilepsy. Furthermore, a tox panel ruled out any poisons. All signs point to Carla having been a healthy young woman, as she had no organ damage, diseases, or trauma.

In autopsy, the victim from the bus stop is laid out on the table. Doc Robbins tells Grissom and Riley that a tox screen showed multiple drugs in the victim's system, rending him incapable of running very far despite his attire. The victim had a pulmonary edema, but Doc Robbins labels the cause of death as cardiac arrest, the same thing that killed Carla. An inspection of the victim's liver shows that it has a slight pinkish and reddish coloration, again similar to Carla's. The doc says that the conditions of the victims' livers might suggest an alternative cause of death—gaseous asphyxiation.

The victim from the bus stop is identified as Harley Soon, who has a rap sheet for solicitation and drug abuse. In Hodges' lab, Grissom tries doing a headspace assay; however, he misses a step due to being overtired from work. He gets a text to head out to another crime scene, where a third victim has been found standing upright. He's dressed in a business suit, holding a briefcase, and hailing a taxi. The team now has a serial killer to catch.

In autopsy, Grissom and Greg process the body. Grissom notes that the briefcase was empty and that this victim also had no forms of identification on him. Greg removes one of the victim's shoes and finds a lead sole in it. When the sole is removed, he finds a coating of dust on it; Grissom finds the same dust near the fingernail beds. Based on dirt in the victim's ears and poorly manicured feet and toes, Grissom concludes that he lived on the street before being cleaned up. Grissom also finds dead head lice in the victim's hair.

Catherine, Nick and Riley try to find a common link between the three cases, but are unable to do so. Since Carla is the only victim who had a mainstream life, Catherine suggests that she's the key to finding a connection. Catherine and Riley search Carla's apartment and find out that she's an art student. There's a painting of Carla on the wall that has been painted to make her look like she's dead. The signature on the artwork belongs to a J. Skaggs, and Riley finds that he's a local artist.

Brass pays Jerzy Skaggs a visit; he's in the process of painting someone in a car. Jerzy recognizes Carla as one of his models, but doesn't recognize the other two victims. He says that he makes a fortune painting people that look dead, but denies killing Carla.

Hodges informs Grissom that the headspace assay showed levels of carbon monoxide in all of the victims, as well as in the head lice. The deadly concoction is consistent with gasoline engine exhaust, but Grissom points out that since the head lice died, then the third victim wasn't suffocated with a mask or a tube. Furthermore, the victims weren't sealed in a car, as there wouldn't have been enough room to pose them. Grissom concludes that the killer is using a gas chamber. He lures the victims back to his place, slips them a sedative, and redresses and repositions the bodies inside the chamber. Once the bodies are in full rigor from the carbon monoxide, he has ten hours to place them and have them discovered.

An elderly couple suffering from Alzheimer's is the next pair of the serial killer's victims; they were placed in a park under the guise of birdwatching. There were no security cameras on the path, but a crackhead told police that he saw an average-height white male with a white-paneled van near the trail before dawn. Grissom and Nick walk past Riley, who is watching a video from a local art blog. The blogger praises the "mannekiller," while comments are mixed; some see the killer as a murderer while others praise him for creating a new way to appreciate art.

Greg tells Grissom that the dust found on the businessman's shoes was actually undyed jute fibers. Additionally, the same fibers were found on tape lifts from the other victims' clothes. His guess is that the killer is covering his victims in woven jute—or burlap—at some point during the process. After Greg leaves, Patricia enters Grissom's office and unhappy that he has mocked her work by mentioning his dog Hank. Grissom explains that that wasn't his intent and tells her that his dog has become listless the last few weeks and questions whether an animal can take on the emotions of its owner. Patricia says that they can and tells Grissom to talk to her or another professional about his problems soon.

Brass finds out that Harley Soon was once arrested in a drug raid on a party that was held in Jerzy's art studio. Jerzy is brought into interrogation and admits that he remembers Harley, but says that a lot of people came to his parties in the past and that he can't remember everyone. Brass shows him the pictures of the victims and he seems to have a morbid curiosity about them. He recognizes the poses in the pictures and tells Brass that a contractor showed him drawings a few months ago while his studio was being renovated. Jerzy remembers very little about the artist, but says that he was rambling about a municipal sculpture competition he was hoping to win.

Catherine finds out that eight months ago, the city sponsored a competition to create a series of bronze lifelike statues for its parks and public spaces. All applications were submitted digitally. As he scrolls through the entries, Nick comes across an entry from an Arthur Blisterman. Every drawing Arthur submitted is in the same pose that the victims ended up being in. Nick notices that there were six entries; however, they've only come across five bodies. They're horrified to find a drawing of a young boy on a bike. Arthur isn't done.

Arthur's house is scoped out, but he's nowhere to be found. An APB has been put out on his van, as well. Nick and Riley search the art blog again with the assumption that one of the commenters is Arthur (under the alias "Anonymous"). They find a picture of the first victim taken and uploaded over an hour before it was actually found. The blogger is brought into the station and told to engage Arthur so they can pinpoint his location. While this is going on, a woman comes into the station and tells Det. Vartann that her son is missing. The "Anonymous" IP address is traced to a library and Arthur is apprehended there. Vartann finds tan dust on Arthur's hands and laptop, consistent with the burlap fibers from the other victims. Since Arthur didn't put himself in a burlap sack, Greg wonders if the fibers are environmental, as if they're present in whatever space he's keeping his victims in.

Grissom questions Arthur, who seems happy to tell them where the boy is, but wants to do so in his own way where his words can't be misinterpreted. He says that for years, he was turned down by several artists; he wants his work to be appreciated and he wants to be remembered. The victims, he says, were nothing until he made them "extraordinary." When threatened with the death penalty for his actions, Arthur replies that he's not scared of dying—he just doesn't want to be forgotten. Grissom asks Arthur again where the boy is, but he replies that "without the boy, the piece is incomplete." He warns that the police are too late to save the boy.

Catherine and Greg electronically search the area around the library, theorizing that Arthur didn't travel far from his comfort zone; the emphasis is on converted warehouses and industrial properties. A warehouse is located that had previously been deeded to a company that manufactured natural fiber bags and shipping materials. Upon entering the warehouse, the team hears a loud motor running, and they eventually find the boy's body restrained on a bicycle in the carbon monoxide chamber. They take him out, where Riley is able to revive him.


Main Cast[]

Guest Cast[]

Major Events[]

  • This marks the first appearance of CSI Riley Adams.


Phillips: Callout was a 4-19, where's the body?
Grissom: (pointing at the dead woman) Ask her.
Phillips: (walks to the woman) Excuse me ma'am. Ma'am? (realizes she is the body) OK.


  • Jeffrey Tambor played Jerzy Skaggs in the episode. He is perhaps most recognizable for his role as George Bluth on the show Arrested Development.

See Also[]

CSI:Las Vegas Season 9
For WarrickThe Happy PlaceArt Imitates LifeLet It BleedLeave Out All The RestSay UncleWoulda, Coulda, ShouldaYoung Man with a Horn19 Down...One to GoThe Grave ShiftDisarmed and DangerousDeep Fried and Minty FreshMiscarriage of JusticeKill Me If You CanTurn, Turn, TurnNo Way OutMascaraThe Descent of ManA Space OddityIf I Had a Hammer...The Gone Dead TrainHog HeavenAll In